Paul Simon and Sting: On Stage Together
Mar
01
2014
Toronto, CAAir Canada Centre
1
share

Paul Simon plays teacher in double-headed show with Sting...

On his last visit to Toronto, Paul Simon invited an astonished woman on stage from the audience at Sound Academy, where the novice singer-guitarist performed her hero's Duncan with encouragement and help - "E minor," he reportedly whispered to her - from the man himself.

This time around, the Simon of Simon and Garfunkel shared a larger stage with an established artist: Sting, the milkman's son whose birth certificate reads "Gordon Sumner" and who rise to fame as the leader of the tricky rock trio The Police. The results were just as charming (albeit more professional), and, at the end, there was little doubt as to the pecking order of the evening. The first song was Brand New Day; the last was Late in the Evening. Everything fit into place, smiles were in long supply and the practised Simon gracefully taught lessons in the art of performance.

The name of the double-headed tour is On Stage Together, which pretty much nails it. On Sting's harmonica-pepped Brand New Day, the pair swapped vocals, with Simon, 71, handling the "you're the pupil, I'm the teacher" line while glancing at Sting, 62. Backed by an amalgamation of each other's highly capable bands - at times more than a dozen musicians (including three drummers) were doing their seriously professional thing - the headliners moved on to Simon's accordion-dappled Boy in the Bubble - "every generation throws a hero up the pop charts" - and Sting's Fields of Gold.

After that, the frumpy, fedora-topped Simon commented on what he expected to gain from the collaboration, cracking wise about his hope to become "more Adonis" in physique and more durable in the sack. As for the self-satisfied Sting, he said he would "stay the same," thank you very much.

With that, Simon split, leaving the stage for Sting's first of two solo sets. We heard Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, I Hung My Head, Driven To Tears, Walking on the Moon and Englishman in New York, in which the Newcastle-area native displayed his fascination with reggae and his maddening affectations, singing "English-mon" with a Jamaican flair that rivals the accent of our city's culturally eclectic mayor.

The attraction of the show was the weaving of each other's material and the collaboration when the pair was on stage together. These two, of course, have much in common: They share a pan-cultural taste in boogies, and it was the rock critic Robert Christgau who once wrote about Sting: "Not since Paul Simon's dangling conversations has a pop hero made such a beeline for the middlebrow cliché."

If he tried, Sting can't really touch Simon's literate word play. Moreover, on stage, his brash musicality showed as less subtle than did Simon's classic craft. On the other hand, Sting's ability on high harmony was, while not a surprise, a nice touch to this buoyant light-FM fandango.

After Sting's mini-set, the pair reunited for A Mother and Child Reunion, which we shouldn't read much into. And if there are indeed 50 Ways to Leave to Your Lover, there are at least as many ways to leave the stage. Before Simon's 1975 solo hit, the two stars did need to discuss much. Sting simply shook Simon's hand and slipped out the stage left.

A highlight of Simon's first solo set was his Africa-dancing hit Graceland, so spry after all these years.

Other highlights included Sting's cover of Simon's America - he it prefaced with a story about the first North American tour by The Police that included a sparsely attended show at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern ("Don't even [bleeping] pretend you were there") - and a duet version of Simon's The Boxer, in which the verse about "years rolling by" was oddly omitted.

A four-song encore by the pair (which included The Police hit and stalker anthem Every Breath You Take, Simon's partying Late in the Evening and concluded with a cover of the Everly Brothers' When Will I Be Loved) began with Bridge Over Troubled Water. Solemn and gospelled, the duet made no one forget Art Garfunkel's soaring original vocals. The point of the song wasn't lost, though - empathy and the easing of the mind. Offering a feel-good concert of good-to-great pop songs for our time, Sting and Simon disappointed no one and lifted many.

(c) Globe & Mail by Brad Wheeler

Paul Simon and Sting take Toronto on a pleasure trip, if not a rockin' ride...

Saturday night's co-headlining bill of Paul Simon and Sting at the Air Canada Centre threatened to be a drowsy dad-rock summit non pareil, but in the end it wound up performing about 50 percent above expectations.

Saturday night's co-headlining bill of Paul Simon and Sting at the Air Canada Centre threatened to be a drowsy dad-rock summit non pareil, but in the end it wound up performing about 50 percent above expectations.

Not that expectations were particularly low going in, of course. The promise of Paul Simon and Sting "On Stage Together" - as the pair's current, two-headed North American arena jaunt is dubbed - implies a reliable degree of level-headed musical professionalism and a combined catalogue of hits, hits, hits dating back nearly 50 years if one chooses the first Simon & Garfunkel album as a point of departure. There was no way that Saturday's "Simon & Stingfunkel" gig was going to be a washout, then, merely the distinct possibility that the show would consist of two living pop legends lazily celebrating their respective, past achievements whilst occasionally, awkwardly attempting to mash their songbooks together in pursuit of new "energies" and the like.

And there was indeed a bit of the latter. The ACC show opened with a trio of tunes - Sting's "Brand New Day" and "Fields of Gold" and Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" - that found the two superstars amiably alternating verses and blending their two bands into a single, 14-piece supergroup, and they would periodically return to the same "all in" format as the two-hour-and-40-minute performance wore on.

Sometimes, this worked spectacularly, as when Sting, 62, graciously let Simon, 72, take the reins for a delicate reading of …Nothing Like the Sun's "Fragile" or when the two later joined forces for an anthemic run at the Simon & Garfunkel classic "The Boxer." Other times, as on the decidedly overdone joint versions of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and the Police's "Every Breath You Take" that eventually commenced the encore, the results sounded rather like the work of a flashy Vegas tribute "revue" or a late-night talk-show band cumbersomely sitting in with the musical guest - interesting enough exercises in the hands of the many ridiculously talented players sharing the stage, yes, but not necessarily enrichments of the source material.

Still, there was nothing lazy about any of it. Even when left to their own devices, both Sting and Simon consistently treated the not-quite-capacity crowd to diligently reworked versions of some of their most popular songs. The only downside was that, in Sting's hands these days, "reworked" frequently means "watered down" into a kind of slick, middle-of-the-road, jazzbo-Muzak mush that treats even the music of his punk-ish younger days - "Message in a Bottle," "Roxanne," "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" - with the same tasteful lack of urgency as more recent (and far less memorable) adult-contemporary fare like "Desert Rose," "I Hung My Head" and "The Hounds of Winter." Curiously enough, his finest moment on Saturday might have come when he stripped away all the big-band gloss and offered up a reverent acoustic version of Simon's "America," a song that, he said, always makes him think of the Police's first North American tour.

Simon, however, made up for Sting's occasional lapses in judgement by supplying all the funk and subtlety often missing from his younger tourmate's repertoire. For a septuagenarian, Simon remains remarkably well attuned to the sort of rubbery pan-cultural riddims that get a body moving, and he's gathered an ace pack of transatlantic sidemen to help him get the job done. Saturday was, thus, largely his night to win, whether he was deftly deploying the nimble Afro-boogie of "Graceland" and "Diamonds on the Souls of Her Shoes," uncorking the delicious samba clatter of "The Obvious Child" or reaching back into the catalogue to transform "50 Ways to Lose Your Lover" into a simmering funk jam or "Hearts and Bones" into a choogling, bluesy medley with Little Junior Parker's "Mystery Train" and Chet Atkins's "Wheels." Even the one new-ish tune trotted out for the evening, the pensive and quite lovely "Dazzling Blue" - from 2011's So Beautiful or So What - held its own against the standards. Simon kinda owned it.

A slightly uneven night out, then, but the good easily outweighed the bad. It's always a kick to see veteran musicians enjoying themselves, after all. Not being privy to the intimate specifics of either performer's finances, I can't say for sure that Simon and Sting don't need to be on the road together right now, but my guess is that this tour is, by and large, a pleasure trip. How nice of them to share some of the pleasure around.

(c) Toronto Star by Ben Rayner

Paul Simon, Sting touch down at ACC...

Talk about your dynamic duos.

Music stars Paul Simon and Sting have hooked up for a North American tour - titled On Stage Together - that visited the Air Canada Centre Saturday night.

And they were such a natural fit you almost had to wonder why they hadn't thought of the idea sooner.

In addition to being real-life friends, both singer-songwriters have explored world music over the years - Simon significantly with his 1986 release Graceland - and Sting with both the reggae tinged hits of The Police and his own 1988 solo release, Nada como el Sol, a five-song Spanish-Portuguese version of his 1987 solo hit album, ...Nothing Like The Sun.

But the idea for the tour apparently came about after they performed at a charity event together and liked the results.

The 71-year-old Simon and the 62-year-old Sting, both leaders of iconic groups - the Queens, N.Y. duo Simon and Garfunkel in the '60s and British New Wave rockers The Police in the '70s, respectively - perfectly complimented each other, performing their collective hits together and alone over the course of two hour and 40 minutes.

The duo, joined by 14 other musicians (each others bands essentially), opened the evening with Sting's Brand New Day, followed by Simon's The Boy in the Bubble and Sting's Fields of Gold before doing both solo sets and coming back together repeatedly as the night wore on.

"I'll become more Adonis-like and have sex for days," joked the diminutive, fedora wearing Simon about how touring with Sting, a well known Yoga enthusiast, might rub off on him.

"How do you think you will change?" asked Simon to Sting, who showed off his toned body in a tight fitting t-shirt and skinny jeans.

"I think I'll just stay the same," Sting deadpanned.

Comedy aside, song highlights were Sting's solo take on Police gems like Every Litte Thing She Does Is Magic, Driven To Tears (with an insane violin solo), Walking On the Moon, Message In a Bottle, and Roxanne plus his own Englishman in New York, The Hounds of Winter, and They Dance Alone.

But it was Simon's songs that were surprisingly more robust as the duo joined forces for such classics as Simon's Mother and Child Reunion, Late In the Evening, and Simon and Garfunkel's The Boxer, and Bridge Over Troubled Water.

They also did justice to Sting's Fragile together and Sting performed Simon and Garfunkel's America, saying it reminded him of when The Police first crossed the pond and played small clubs like the Horseshoe in Toronto.

""Don't even try to f--king pretend you were there," he said. "No one was there."

On his own, Simon lead his expert band through 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, the gorgeous Dazzling Blue (with appropriate lighting), Graceland, Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard, the Zydeco-celebration That Was Your Mama, and the one-two punch of Diamonds on The Soles of Her Shoes and You Can Call Me Al.

By the time the two men were alone together on stage for The Everly Brothers' When Will I Be Loved it seemed more than right although I could have easily have listened to them for another hour.

"Two guitars, two singers, it might as well end how it all began," summed up Simon.

(c) The Toronto Sun by Jane Stevenson

SET LIST

COMMENTS 1
maahingun February 21,2014
Please shout out
I have been a sting fan since I was in grade nine. My partner Jeff Stephens bought me these tickets for Christmas. But it is truly a celebration of almost fifteen years together. A shout out to us. Jeff Stephens and nikki Sargent would make the wait to see you Gain so very special. The last time I saw you in concert was at maple leaf gardens. I had to sneak away from home to go see you. I am so. Dry excited to see you perform again.
photos